A Look at the 2007 Challenges

The new challenges for the FLL Power Puzzle season are pretty interesting, and include some new twists to the competition. They also seem to make it somewhat harder to get a perfect score. For example, while the Nanoquest theme had only 9 challenges, this season has a whopping 15! Here are some comments on a few of the complicated challenges:

Hydro-Dam: This challenge model is a deliverable, meaning it's in base (or the parking lot) until the robot moves it. The "water" part of the dam is not used until the end of the round, when it's used for scoring. For the challenge, the robot has to move the dam so that it touches both banks of one of the two rivers on the east (right) side of base. There is another factor, though. In a later challenge, the Power Lines have to be moved so that they connect the Power Plant property to surrounding communities. If the hydro dam is touching a community which is touching the Power Lines, you get an extra 5 points.

Wind Turbines: These two deliverables have to be moved to a white area "not directly outside Base". The term, "directly", is an interesting one, because it's not exactly clear how far away that is. It will probably be clarified on in a Q&A, though. These models also have the same factor as the dam, in that you get an extra 5 points for each Turbine that touches a community connected by the Power Lines.

Wave Turbine: This is the first time I've seen a challenge like this. Each team has to build and bring their own wave turbine model and bring it to the competition. During the round, their robot has to move the model from base to the ocean directly west of the sandy base (in the top left corner). The turbine model has to have at least two pieces that move independently from each other (for example, two beams connected by a pin). The mission description says it's worth your while to make the model meaningful, but you don't get any points for it, so... :-)

Oil Barrels: Part of this mission is a little confusing. It says if you can put the barrels either in the Base or the parking lot (by hand) for 10 points each. Then it says if you rescue the robot when there are barrels in Base, you'll get one taken away, but if you rescue the robot when no barrels are in Base, none will be taken away. This begs the question... can you just put the barrels in the parking lot instead of the base and rescue your robot without penalty? I don't think this will be allowed, for two reasons. First, it wouldn't make much sense for you to get penalized if you decided to keep the barrels in the Base instead of the parking lot, when you can put them in either by yourself (not with the robot). Second, the video tutorial for this mission shows both the Base AND the Parking Lot without barrels intentionally.

Fairness Bonus: This year, the fairness bonus gives a bigger advantage to RIS users. If a team gets 100 points or less, every five points they got gets 3 more points. So if an RIS team got 100 points, they'd get a Fairness Bonus of 60 points. RIS teams that achieve 105 - 325 points gain a Fairness Bonus of 60 points as well. Finally, RIS teams that score 330 - 395 points have their points replaced by a corresponding number of points from 386 - 399. So basically, the Fairness Bonus won't help RIS teams get perfect scores, but it will help them if they get a non-perfect score.



Anonymous said…
Anyone else think that the fairness bonus should be going away? Last year it made sense as the NXT was new and unexpected. This year, however, the bonus has been tweaked to the point where it may be advantageous to use the old technology. It almost seems like an unfairness bonus....
Anonymous said…
The fairness bonus is based on a very large sampling of scores by both NXT and RCX teams. The scores for both types of teams fell into three different categories. I suppose that is why there are three different scoring adjustments.

Based on Minnesota FLL results rookie NXT teams had a huge advantage over rookie RCX teams. Experienced teams still showed some advantage, but not as great. In Minnesota we saw only a small NXT advantage for expert NXT teams, but our data sample was small. Most teams in this category were itching to try the new technology.

If you think the bonus points give RCX an advantage why not choose that as a platform?
An NXT-robot team shouldn't feel it is at a disadvantage here. I'd love to hear from others on this, but I think some of the advantages of the NXT are:

- more stable/rigid robots using Technic parts

- more advanced sensors

- built-in rotation sensors that are less finicky

I'm sure there are more... I'm not looking at starting a debate, though. Take it as another challenge to use whichever kit you have to its fullest potential.

Definitely... as far as I'm concerned, the built-in rotation sensors by themselves make the Fairness Bonus fair. I love those things! :P

Anonymous said…
"If you think the bonus points give RCX an advantage why not choose that as a platform?"

A good question. One answer is that FIRST did not give the rookie teams the option to buy an RCX based kit this year.

More to the point, there are big changes to the robot game this year clearly intended to keep scores down. Rightly so as 400 point runs were almost commonplace last year. If scores do stay down, the 60ish point bonus is huge--big enough that teams that have the option may just do as you suggest.

But, hopefully, I'm wrong and FIRST got the balance just right.
The barrel scoring is confusing to me. Why would I put a barrel at the power station for only 5 pts when I can get 10pts at base?

It seems the only time you want a barrel to leave the base is inorder to goto the farm.

Are the barrels in the truck counted if the truck is in parking lot?

This year seems so much more challenging than last year. Its going to be alot of fun.

Yeah I was wondering the same thing... why go to the trouble of moving the barrels to the Power Plant property just to lose 5 points?

Anonymous said…
Oil is not renewable and there's a limited supply. We aren't supposed to use it in the power plant. Burning oil to get electricity is short sighted.

Politics enters FLL.
Anonymous said…
An oil barrel in the base is worth 10 points, but may be taken away as a penalty if the team touches the robot outside of the base. So if the robot malfunctions 3 times, you could lose 30 points. If you instead deliver the barrels to the power plant, they may not be taken away as a penalty. So some teams may decide that the 5 point each guarantee is better than the 10 points risk.

Yeah that's what I was thinking, except that the red barrels aren't allowed to be in the Power Plant property, so you'd still get those taken away.

Ethan Steckmann said…
1. Smaller robots
2. smaller motors
3. stronger studed cunstruction

1. biult in rotation sensors
2. smarter brain
3. better software

thats what i think about the nxt and the rcx i think that they are equal and that the fairness bounus is a little un fair but what even what can i do about it.

Anonymous said…
The fairness bonus isn't a huge issue for me, as we are in this to learn and have a good time, not to win the most points.

However, my initial reaction was to wonder why it was needed this year.

Couldn't we also pose the question the other way..."Why couldn't the RCX teams switch over to the NXT if they thought there was an advantage to the NXT?" If teams can choose their platform, why the need for the fairness bonus?

We didn't know until Sept 5, with the release of the challenge that there was going to be a "Fairness Bonus" or what it would be. It is a little late to switch platforms based on information in the Challenge.

Last year the NXT was new with some unknowns. Starting a new platform requires starting over on the learning curve to some degree. Also, there aren't as many resources for the new platform. Most of the helps on the web have illustrations for the RCX. As you would expect, over time this is changing, slowly. (We are eagerly awaiting the NXT Idea Book!) Rookie teams need these resources!

Last year was our first year. We chose the NXT because it was new. It didn't make sense to put our money into the old technology. We were thinking that perhaps RCXs would not be allowed in the competition at some point, and we would have to buy NXT eventually anyway. My main frustration is not having enough materials for the NXT. We have purchased many of your books, and are very thankful for them!

Thinking that you can switch platforms if you see an advantage isn't really realistic, at least for us. There are cost barriers to switching AND you have to start over on your learning curve.

The teams that have been using RCXs for many years, I think have an advantage because of the their experience, their accumulated knowledge, and the resources available to them. I don't really think they are at a disadvantage. THe RCX has been around for a while, so that the problems are known and so are the work arounds for the problems. Whereas the problems with the NXt (there aren't that many, but say like Bluetooth issues, memory issues, etc) are new and you have to wait on the fixes to be developed.

I look forward to when we are all using the same platform. If the teams were encouraged to change over, there would be more materials for the new platform. The fairness bonus may hinder teams from being motivated to switch.

Anyway, I don't see a need for the fairness bonus.
Anonymous said…
Many public and private schools have a large investment in RCX technology. One or two years is not enough time to get funding for new robot kits.

Then there are the underfunded teams that can't afford new kits. Some can't even afford registration and tournament fees (we have grants and scholarships available in Minnesota). Don't you think they are disadvantaged enough already?

I'm glad LEGO is allowing this gradual transition. They could have forced our hand, but they once again chose to be customer centric.

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